I did write something very similar to this a little over a year ago, about the questions and uncertainties surrounding my beliefs. In that year, I took a lot of time to think, pray, discuss, and ultimately grow. Although it's already evident in my other posts, I felt moved to share more about my journey in a much deeper way, particularly in the wake of celebrating seven years of being a Christian. My intention is not to tell anyone what to do or how to live, but rather, to share what I have discovered and learned up to this point. And believe me when I say that it has been a lot! While the following may seem somewhat repetative, it goes a lot deeper into things that I wasn't ready to share the last time.
For starters, I'm starting to think that it wasn't so much God Himself that I was questioning; rather, it was the Church and whether or not I was "good enough" to belong in it. But in order to explain that, let me back track a little bit.
From eighth grade and all through high school, my youth group and church activities were how I associated with God; in other words, when those activities were going strong, my faith was strong. When I would come home from a retreat or just from a weekly get together, that euphoria would fade and the frustration would set in. I hardly knew anything about how reading the Bible or prayer played a role in it; at least compared to what I know now.
Two years later, I became aware of a different side to Christianity; the kind that said if you did not hold conservative ideals, you were not a true Believer. It was both a mixture of church gossip, Catholic high school education, the wonderful world of social media, and pointing fingers.
While my parents had (and still have) their own opinions about important issues, neither I or my siblings was raised to have a specific stance on any of them. My question was, do I just go along with what everyone else around me says, even though I may not agree with them? Or, do I voice my concerns and risk being made a complete outsider?
And I'll be honest, watching my close friend go down a dark path did effect my viewpoint as well. Or maybe it was everyone else's reaction to my feelings about the situation; it seemed like a lot of people looked down on me because of how I was hurting. Then again, hardly anyone knew about the conversations we had, or how much of a positive influence he had been on me. Throughout that time, I felt a whisper, as though God was telling me "love him the way he loved you when you were at the bottom." I think our Moms were the only two that genuinely understood that.
It all got to be too much for me to handle; on the outside, I appeared fine. But on the inside, I was going into a spiritual coma.
Yes, my prespective of things at that time was a little skewed; I was sixteen, still struggling with self-esteem and often falling into many depressive funks from 2006 to 2011. Yes, it would have been a lot easier to sit down and get everything off of my chest, but I was too afraid. I didn't know if I could take rejection from those whom had one professed to care about me. I wanted to be loved an accepted, something that I hadn't gotten at school or any place else.
It was at this time that I should have come to the conclusion that I was not fully healed; that I still needed to learn how to love myself, and be content in God's love for me before I asked that of others. That healing would not begin until late 2011, early 2012, and is still an ongoing process.
A few weeks after I started college, I mustered the energy to start trying some of the faith-based student groups on campus, two of which were recommended by those I knew from home. I did my best to have an open mind about it, and the encouragement from my Mom definitely helped.
Yet, I couldn't shake the fact that neither of them felt right for me; there was little or no time for personal connection, because they took place in these big areas with mass amounts of people. Second, there was so much emphasis put on being different, or being on one side versus the other. But the one thing that put a knot in my stomach was that many of the people in those groups didn't seem authentic or genuine; in other words, everybody seemed perfect or damn near close to it, and that intimidated me a great deal.
I don't mean to say that those organizations are bad or anything of the sort. But I was at a place in my life where I was trying to get used to so many things all at once, and I was also curious about the nightlife culture. I was wrestling with many questions that for a long time I was scared to ask, and needed a safe place in order to ask those questions. I just didn't feel safe within those groups.
For the next six months, I put it on the backburner. I wrote letters to God in my journal, which is something I still do today. There were many nights that I spent praying to Him about what was on my heart; more notably, my first (and thus far, my only) serious crush that I've had in college.
And there were also many prayers lifted up through teary eyes and a confused heart. I had moments where I had to let go of people that I had met and grown close to; some were only for a little while, others were for good.
However, I won't pretend that I didn't do anything crazy in the midst of all that. Most of the time, it was either to satisfy a curiosity or to forget how stressed out and frustrated I was. What I did was actually not as bad as what I thought about doing. Some nights were actually fun, others not so much. I'll get more in depth about it in the second part of this series.
What I didn't know is that God was leading me to a place that I could not have imagined going; and the catalyst of it all would happen in the form of a roommate situation gone completely down the drain.
It would be the most stressful experience I've had in the last two years. But it was a much needed wake-up call.